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Off Beat Empire: Band MS Paint Infographics

In Imitation of and Apologies to Thumpasaurus

Like many of you, I have been suffering withdrawal from Thumpasaurus’s excellent infographics, so I figured I would take a stab at applying a few of them to Marching Band. Obviously, they’re much better when Thumpasaurus does them.

Poll

Which Band has the least to look forward to in 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Illinois
    (16 votes)
  • 8%
    Minnesota
    (17 votes)
  • 5%
    Nebraska
    (12 votes)
  • 75%
    Rutgers
    (161 votes)
  • 2%
    Other (explain in comments)
    (6 votes)
212 votes total Vote Now

Halftime

We have new video this week from Indiana, Minnesota, MSU, and Wisconsin.

Indiana

Unfortunately, Indiana’s video format does not play nicely with SB Nation, so the video can be found on their site, here (https://www.indiana.edu/~bands/marching-hundred/about/videos/ then select 10-13-18 Halftime).

Back on October 13th, Indiana gave us a performance centered on the rock group Rush, including renditions of “Fly By Night”, “YYZ”, and “Bastille Day”. I will admit that I’m not the greatest fan of Rush, but I’m kind of surprised that these tunes were chosen over “Tom Sawyer” or “The Spirit of Radio” or “Limelight”. Regardless, the Marching Hundred were incredibly clean throughout their performance... I never felt the tempo falling away from them, you could clearly hear the melodies and counter-melodies, and the brass had a nice, bright tone throughout the rendition. Drill was very simple and featured the RedSteppers during “YYZ” to an otherwise parked band, but I kind of liked how the band did a pseudo follow-the-leader to transition into some of the diagonal lines and shapes. It wasn’t anything challenging, but it looked nice and accentuated the crispness of what was going on with the music. Toward the end, the Marching Hundred invited their alumni on the field for homecoming and finished the show with their traditional pre-game rendition of “Sing, Sing, Sing” (which is always a fun treat when performed by the Hoosiers).

Minnesota

To the extent you cannot see the embedded video above, click here: http://www.ummbvideo.com/newummbvideo/Videos/20181020Halftime.mp4.

Last weekend the Gophers traveled to Nebraska to perform a collection of ‘80’s music under the headline of “Stranger Things”. The band started out with Ray Parker Jr.’s title theme to “Ghostbusters”, transitioned to Toto’s “Africa”, and finished with Devo’s “Whip It”. Ghostbusters featured some nice animation drill in the form of a kids bike complete with rotating tires. Africa used maneuvering squads of ~4-5 band members, which to be entirely honest, I wasn’t quite sure what effect they were going for there. It looked like it was going to be something cool where they got to a spot quickly and then “exploded” into a shape, but in fact, it just took a while to develop. That said, I haven’t seen “Stranger Things” on Netflix yet, so maybe it had something to do with the show that I wasn’t quite getting. I was also a bit confused by the drill for “Whip It”, although I think they were replicating Pac-Man... I’m not quite sure. Again, if I’m missing something obvious from Stranger Things, please let me know in the comments (it’s been on my Netflix watch list for two years... I swear I will get to it, eventually!). The sound was pretty good throughout, but a bit monotone... I wish the arrangement had more big hit moments. Still, it’s a fun little show from the Gophers and I suspect that we will see more when they take the field at home for their next show.

Michigan State

For their game against Michigan, the Spartan Band pulled out all the stops and gave us three tunes related to the circus. The band opened with “The Greatest Show” from The Greatest Showman. Now, I realize this is the biggest cinema musical to come out in the past year (I still haven’t watched it), so this seems to be the “it” music for bands to play this year. I’ve reviewed parts of this show probably ~ five times or so already this year, and several of those arrangements were well-played, sounded great, and formed the basis of a solid performance (Michigan’s performance comes to mind as being particularly good). However, when Sparty feels like blowing you away with the quality of their musicianship, they step right up and show you that their best show will top pretty much everybody else in the conference. The sound and energy for the opener is just awesome... so clean... so concise... and every big hit is packing a musical punch. They didn’t skimp on drill either - that’s a high number of sets to go through and a lot of neat transition drill between the shapes. Next, the Spartans perform “When I see an Elephant Fly” from the movie Dumbo, which had a really good lighthearted swing jazz vibe throughout. Buried in the music were some really good trumpet and horn licks (particularly around the ~3:50 mark) and while there wasn’t quite as much contrast between the highs and the lows, the big brass hits just kept coming throughout the arrangement. Drill continued to sustain at a high level and the animation drill around Dumbo was fantastic. Finally, the Band finished with a performance of “Incantation” by Benoit Jutras composed for Cirque du Soleil, which featured an outstanding drum break by what (in my humble opinion, anyway) is hands down the best drum line in the conference, if not in the country. Of course, the drill stayed excellent throughout and the big hits, particularly the big push after the drum break, were just thoroughly awesome. Again, Ohio State delivers at a high level each and every week, and on average they’ve earned their moniker “The Best Damn Band in the Land”. However, give me Sparty’s best show or two every year, and it will blow away even the Buckeyes. This was just outstanding.

Wisconsin

For homecoming, Wisconsin gave us a pretty thorough performance of various songs from Jesus Christ Superstar. Out of all the Andrew Lloyd Weber musicals, I’ve always felt like this musical translates best to Band and Orchestra arrangements. Wisconsin had a lot of good material to work from, and I think they did a particularly nice job this time of being still (or at least semi-still) during some of the softer melodic sections in order to build contrast with some of the bigger hits (which featured the famous Wisconsin high step routine). Most of the show sounded pretty good and the cohesion held together despite some tricky transitions in sections like Herod’s Song where the tempo is increasing. I also thought it was kind of a nice touch to see the snow falling right toward the end of the performance - it just seemed like the perfect cap for a Badger halftime show. The band was then joined by the alumni, but this video seems to have cut out if they did anything together (other than “Varsity”). Overall, a nice performance by Wisconsin.

Others

I did have a short snippet of video from Rutgers that had a fantastic sounding lick from Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”, but I’m hoping that I’ll get more to post later. Nebraska, Indiana, and Iowa were all in action at home, but Nebraska and Iowa are just tough bands to get timely video on. I’m sure we’ll see Indiana’s 10/20 video posted soon. For some reason, Northwestern has only posted one show this year, so hopefully we will get more on them at some point as well (I’ve at least seen those shows in person - they were good).

Conclusion

We need Thumpasaurus to return to his MS Paint. Indiana gave us the classic music of Rush, Minnesota took us back to the ‘80’s, MSU put on a three-ring circus, and Wisconsin had a nice rendition of Jesus Christ Superstar. For those of you who didn’t have the pleasure of experiencing the ‘80’s, I’ll end on the video for Devo’s “Whip It”... This is so utterly awful in retrospect, it’s endearing. I don’t even know what drugs could have possibly inspired something like this - how the hell did we let this stuff become popular?